Summits Are Only A Beginning

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April 23, 2021- I have never been to Ciudad de Mexico. The fifth-largest metropolitan area on the planet, it is also the second-largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere. Ciudad de Mexico may soon become the locus of the worst ecological nightmare that humanity has seen, in several centuries. The Valley of Mexico, indeed, the entire middle swath of the country, is experiencing the worst drought it has seen, in nearly a millennium. Central Mexico, as a whole, may very well be running out of water.

We in the Southwest of the United States (including southern California) have also been experiencing drought. The occasional snow and rain that we have received, since last autumn, have not done much to put a dent in the dryness. Only more judicious use of our water has, and will continue to, keep our communities from literally blowing away in the desert wind.

It is an irony, that the first place to which people in Mesoamerica turn, when faced with economic hardship, or sociopolitical repression, is the American southwest-from San Diego to Houston-and everywhere in between. We have done relatively well here, economically, though the underbelly of homelessness and economic inequality is as much a concern in the Southwest as it is anywhere on the planet. A splinter wedged under my fingernail hurts just as badly as it would under anyone else’s. So we go about being concerned with our own, first and foremost.

All the same, those who express disdain for the current immigration impasse at the border between Mexico and the United States must brace themselves for what will happen, should the water crisis in central Mexico worsen. The six-figure populace massing near, and permeating, that arbitrary line could all too easily morph into millions, or tens of millions, of people.

The Group of Twenty summit, convened virtually, on addressing climate change, is a tad behind schedule, through no fault of those who gathered. That said, it is painfully obvious that every single person on the planet has a role to play in conservation and better use of resources-especially of our planet’s basic elements (water, air, soil/minerals, and fire). It falls as much to local teams, neighbourhoods and families to double down on meeting the challenge of climate change. Everything from taking shorter, though equally intense, showers to intelligently recycling items that won’t decompose (and not just depending on municipal contractors to do the job), is the responsibility of everyone who enjoys running water and non-decomposable packaging. Providing clean water for drinking and bathing, to those who lack this basic resource, is a whole other topic.

These are the thoughts that come to mind, after the G-20’s most recent summit.

The Matter of The Use of Time

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April 6, 2021- I spent the day with groups of high school history students, whose task was simple: Read short passages and answer questions, in writing. That was all: No discussion, no Q & A with the teacher-and above all, no phones. It is interesting that I saw students accessing the same information that was on the handouts, on their phones, and in a much higher font. People will do what works in their best interests, regardless of rules or convention.

There are, theses days, as in times past, any number of conspiracy theories, all manner of disrespect for authority and failure to consider other points of view, lest one be found guilty of faulty logic (as if that were an actual crime, rather than just evidence that further investigation might be in order). I will address those matters, in the next post.

In the meantime: I choose, pretty much, how I will spend my time, on any given day. I take on special assignments, like the one described above, mostly out of regard for the circumstances in which the schools of this area find themselves. I also choose which Zoom calls to join, as others choose whether to join those calls which I host. I choose when to answer the sometimes incessant pings on Instant Messenger (which I have mostly to contact my immediate family). I choose to help friends with tasks that would be unwieldy for them to do by themselves.

There are those, who live through others or who wish to leach off of them, constantly prescribing what those others should do, asking for money or attention, or just bemoaning that no one cares about them. I have been guilty, in times past, of each of these. The realization, a few years back and when I found myself alone, was that my time was best spent tending to personal growth. That remains so, and any of the choices now being made, in this personal sphere, are geared towards addressing the flaws that rankle both myself and those around me.

I noticed that most of the teens who were around me today were doing the same thing: Focusing on the work, yes, but also going about that work in a manner that dovetailed with their own personal situation. May that ethic long serve them well.

The Other African-American Diaspora

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February 21, 2021- It’s well-known that thousands of African-Americans headed to the large cities of the Northeast, Midwest and California, both during the Jim Crow Era and as a result of the Great Depression, Less well-known is the movement of people of colour to the rangelands of the interior West. Those among the Black community in the South who were looking for independence, and a chance to prove themselves as individuals, listened when lower middle class whites talked of the Wild West, of cowpunching and the wide-open spaces. Many set out for territories like Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and the new states of Colorado and Nevada. They found, at least initially, that there was not as much judgment based on the colour of their skin, and few questions were asked about their antebellum status. Both men and women found their way west, with some women establishing hotels in small mining and ranching towns. Elizabeth Smith, one of the first settlers of Wickenburg, Arizona was prominent among them, owning and operating her own hotel, the Vernetta (named for her mother-in-law) and starting the town’s first Presbyterian church. She was forced to take a subservient role, in the 1930’s, when a coterie of business people from the East Coast arrived and instituted Jim Crow laws in Arizona. Elizabeth never gave up her dignity, though, quietly reminding the New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians, who engineered her shunning, that their ancestors had fought against slavery and for the freedom of all. While the Vernetta Hotel only remained open until her death in 1935, Elizabeth is once again honoured by the people of present-day Wickenburg.

The men who took on the work of ranch hands and cowpokes were treated somewhat better. Even the whites who came from the Deep South to work the range had better sense than to turn on their co-workers of colour. Here is one such Black Cowboy, offering a view of the Texas range that is not often celebrated.

The pioneering spirit burned brightly, in a good many who took the promise of “Forty acres and a mule” to the next level.

All Steamed Up and On A Rampage

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October 8, 2020-

No, not me. I have actually not been as calm and clear-headed as I am today, for quite some time. Feeling part of a group that accomplished a sizeable amount of work, in two weeks’ time, has a lot to do with my own composure.

The news that at least thirteen men, one of whom doesn’t even live in Michigan, have been arrested in connection with a plot to kidnap that state’s governor, is a prime example of the frame of reference for the title of this post.

Riots and mayhem have been the province of both Far Right and Far Left groups, at various points in our nation’s history. Tulsa, Chicago and Hayneville, AL saw the former group exercise its muscle, in the mid-Twentieth Century. Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC-among several other cities, saw upheavals from the latter group, in the 1960’s. It is a fair argument that the White attacks on Black Wall Street and the loud demands for continuance of racial segregation had much to do with setting the stage for the urban riots of the 1960s, ’70s and 1992. The earlier White rampages reinforced attitudes of intolerance and separation that, left alone, would have started to fade and gradually be replaced by more fair-minded attitudes, across racial lines.

Spending two weeks serving a primarily African-American populace certainly strengthened my own feelings of love and equanimity towards a woefully misunderstood community. I saw mostly a high level of patience and love coming from our clientele. When anger was expressed, I daresay it was justified. In every case, we were able to address and resolve the issue, not once sweeping it aside.

End of digression. I see a lot of people of European descent, and more than a few from other demographics, fulminating at what they perceive as a combination of the social order’s collapse and a witchhunt against the current president. He has been microanalyzed, as his last six precessors were, by the Mainstream Media, AND he is partially hoist of his own petard-as several of his predecessors also were.

None of the above facts will stop people, who are highly frustrated and feeling discounted, from acting out in an even more extreme manner. It may well not be just homegrown anarchists and paid foreign actors committing mayhem in the streets, come later in the Fall and through January.

This is why it is vital to take Joe Biden at his word, that he will be the President of supporter and opponent alike, should he win the election, next month. It is even more vital to insist that Donald Trump-and his potential replacement, Mike Pence, follow the same ethic. They could very well still be re-elected.It is vital that all life is honoured, by all four candidates.

It is also imperative that corporate interests, including medical research enterprises, refrain from manipulating women who seek empowerment (This means YOU, Planned Parenthood), stop lobbying against legitimate scientific research and start putting the needs of the people over reckless seeking of profits.

It is essential, also, that people see each other as one family-even if that means occasional squabbles and smoothing one another’s rough edges. I am from two large families and there are plenty of progressives, conservatives- and moderates, like me, in the mix. We have, for the most part, come to a consensus of love trumping ideology. If we can do this, so can many, if not most, other people.

It’s time to stop the rumble.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 5: Whose Children Matter?

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September 13, 2020-

In some of my response to reports of abused and neglected children, it has come back at me that these particular campaigns are cherry-picked, Right-Wing trope activities. Maybe so, but I personally don’t cherry-pick, as to which children get attention and which go without.

Early in my counseling career, a severe sexual assault case was brought to me and the Response Team was in the midst of getting the victim to safety, when a call came about another child threatening suicide. I asked my senior partner to take that case and get back to me, once the child had been evaluated. This was unusual, for the particular community to have two victims at the same time, but there was no daylight, no distinction, between one child and the other.

One red flag, which discomfits many, is a child who gets too close, who hugs too tightly or even wants to sit on a non-related adult’s lap. I’ve dealt, gently, but firmly, with several such children, almost always girls-and who were either being totally ignored, shunned by their father or were being grommed by an adult either in, or known to, their immediate family. Getting the father to acknowledge, and spend quality time with, his daughter was relatively easy. The girls being taught sexual behaviours had, however, to be removed from the home and placed in group homes, where experienced professionals were able to give them the advanced therapy they needed.

I think of these children, a few of whom have kept in touch, as adults and are doing quite well, considering the ordeals that came their way. I think of them all the more, in light of the current Netflix film, “Cuties”, which uses exhibitionism as a vehicle to “combat sexual exploitation of children”. Counterintuitive, at best, and exploitative in itself, at worst, I see the showing of the film as a serious error in judgement. There was a period, from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, when young European and South American girls were featured in some rather lurid websites-with the sites’ owners and photographers claiming their work was “art”. Fortunately, Interpol, the FBI, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany, and, wondrously, the Russian FSB, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, took these sites down and the long process of finding and rehabilitating the child victims was initiated. I would not want to see anything close to that horrific state of affairs be repeated.

That said, the vast majority of sexual and physical abuse of children takes place in situations familiar to them, at the hands of people whom they ought to be able to trust. This makes it both simple and complex, for the helping professional- Simple, in that the child is easy to locate and remove from the home; complex, in that there is often a culture of denial in place, largely based on fear of disruption and dislocation of the family unit.

Getting co-operation from the other family members is completely dependent on their degree of self-assurance and cohesiveness, independent of the perpetrator(s). In a close-knit community, even law enforcement officers. medical staff and social services workers, if they are related to the perpetrator, can be a hindrance to justice for the victim.

All these factors come into play with regard to obtaining justice, and if the matter involves a child, or multiple children, being groomed in sexual behaviour, there needs to be both a swift separation of perpetrator(s) and victim(s) and active therapeutic measures initiated as quickly as possible.

No child, anywhere, is less important than any other.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 2: Personal Responsibility

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September 10, 2020-

My mother turned 92 today. In our conversation this afternoon, she sounded well and had enjoyed a birthday lunch. She expressed pride in my having gone to help hurricane victims in Louisiana, a reflection of the stress she always placed on accepting responsibility and assisting the less fortunate.

I woke this morning, feeling a drag on my psyche. Knowing that one of the people, to whom I was alluding in the last post, would likely be the first to want my attention, I was slow to open my phone. Fortunately, I was able to hold the line on his accepting responsibility for his own success, while still offering help in a few areas that he could not have known how to handle . I must always try to be discerning.

Neither patronize, nor disparage. This is a tough row to hoe, as I’ve become quite used to doing things on my own and not wanting to have random people show up, wanting me to solve all their problems. At the same time, I have no problem pitching in to a group effort at dealing with social issues, dealing with an emergency that happens in my presence or doing a helpful activity that is scheduled. I guess it’s randomness that I find irritating.

This is also a heavy cosmic energy period. For the astrologically-inclined, seven planets are in retrograde, relative to Earth. This tends to throw us back, going over old ground. I have done well this year, at clearing out old, counterproductive habits and energies. There is still a bit left to tidy up, though, so maybe this retrograde season will help along those lines.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 73: Grasping at Straws

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August 12, 2020-

I am sensing an ennui,

among the people who

comment, investigate

and postulate about

the whos, whats and whys

behind serious matters,

and more quotidian fare.

There is less concern

these days,

with fact,

than with

titillating innuendo.

There is less willingness

to work through an issue,

than to hand off

the matter to

one of the “favoured few”.

There is a joy,

when one finds “clickbait”

on an individual

whom one claims to loathe.

It’s easier to issue

an armchair condemnation,

than to call out the person

and insist on specific steps

that s(he) could take,

in order to rectify

one’s legitimate grievances.

Building legitimacy,

though, is hard work.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 62: What I Want in August, Part II

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August 1, 2020-

Half of any soulful person’s wish list, at any given time, is what is wanted for the community. My list, in this regard, is both simple and complex.

The simple things: Our neighbourhood children may continue to come and go as they please, safely, through the alleys, yards and creekbeds that outline their world. Instruction, whether online or in-person, starts soon and engages minds. People gather downtown, or in public parks, and enjoy their time, without having to justify their beliefs. Nursing homes are able to permit visitors, even with screening for temperatures, before too many more weeks have passed.

The complex things: Our election goes off, without a hitch, on the day scheduled. Those erstwhile friends of mine, now acting more like acquaintances, come to see past their sectarian and political blinders and look at the hearts of those, including me, who hold no ill will towards them or anyone else. Freedom of travel returns, and is not made subject to the partisan views or “one-size-fits-all” health prescriptions of either government officials or private citizens of means. Recognition that the lives of preborn children, infants, toddlers, school-age children and adolescents are universally sacred.

August is said to be a month of masculine energy. I know I will be plenty busy.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 55: Day Out of Time

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July 25, 2020-

Today, in a Celestial Calendar, that has 13 months of 28 days, with one end day, July 25, which is called Day Out of Time.

Is there such a thing as Black Saturday?

Today might have qualified.

Nothing bad happened TO me,

but around my perimeter, and beyond.

I am sick of the social blindness,

the distractions,

the attacks on innocent people

that are keeping us from

accomplishing what is necessary

as a people, as a nation.

I am sick of obfuscation, gaslighting,

demands that everyone follow

the Party Line.

I am furious at the carnage,

the fake fires, the murders

and attempted murders,

all in the name of “security”

or “purity”.

I stayed mostly around home

and off the pay-per-view

Unify festivities.

Enough is enough,

and tomorrow will be

nicer.

Two Kids

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April 27, 2020-

There were once two children, who were the best of friends.  The first lived in a large house, was given all manner of toys and games, had a Nanny and was rarely disciplined-except for when his mother told him how stupid he was.

He was, in fact, rather impetuous, would hit adults and call other kids names.  His mother just told him that was very STUPID.  His father, rather aloof, was also seldom in his life.  Dear old Dad taught the boy how to golf and how to get the drop on other people.  His Nanny was kind to him, and taught him to pray to Jesus, so to the extent he listened, it was mainly to her.

The other child was the Nanny’s own daughter.  Since the boy was not allowed out of the compound, she was his closest companion and saw goodness in him.  She lived with her mother in a small cottage, on the mansion grounds.  The boy was forbidden by his parents from going over to the servants’ quarters, but the girl could play board games and do her homework in one of the family rooms of the Main House.

As they got older, the boy was given to a sort of rebellion, as many children are, when going through adolescence.  His tantrums both got worse and resulted in his mother taking a belt or a broom to his derriere, nearly on a daily basis.

The Nanny objected to this treatment, and after several protests, she was fired.  Father explained to the bewildered son:  “This is what you do, when underlings disobey. You tell them they are fired.”  Of course, this meant that his friend, his sole reliable companion, was also gone-never to return.  Truth be known, they were becoming more than  friends.  The dismissal happened, a few days after an afternoon of casual exploration, in the woods behind the cottage.  Boy was convinced it was more than just his Nanny’s protests that caused the rupture in his life.

So, a few days later, the boy crawled over the wall to his compound, knapsack in hand, and made his way to the  address which his friend had written on a napkin, which was also filled with her dried tears.   Her mother was not at home, having found work in a factory down the street from their new residence.  The girl was elated to see her best friend, and so the casual exploration continued.

Boy never went back to his parents’ house, and not surprisingly, they never bothered to look for him.  They never got to know their three grandchildren, who called the Nanny “Abuela”.

(Any relation between the characters in this story and real people, is purely coincidental.)